Saturday, 14 July 2012

Woody Guthrie Centenary

Today is the centenary of blues folk singer Woody Guthrie, known as the ‘dustbowl troubadour’ and a clear influence on many later musicians, including Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Pete Seeger and Phil Ochs.

Musicians from a variety of backgrounds continue to draw inspiration from Woody Guthrie, re-interpreting and re-invigorating his songs for new audiences. His influence is still felt throughout the world, through people such as Billy Bragg, Wilco, Ani DiFranco, The Klezmatics, Hans-Eckhardt Wenzel, to Native American musicians such as Keith Secola and Blackfire to Chinese Punk rockers PK14 and Danish musician Esben.

Woody Guthrie's songs still speak to us about thoughts, ideas, and feelings that are as relevant and meaningful today as when he lived them in the 1930s and 1940s.

He says it best himself in his book, Pastures of Plenty:

‘There's a feeling in music and it carries you back down the road you have travelled and makes you travel it again. Sometimes when I hear music I think back over my days - and a feeling that is fifty-fifty joy and pain swells like clouds taking all kinds of shapes in my mind.

‘Music is in all the sounds of nature and there never was a sound that was not music - the splash of an alligator, the rain dripping on dry leaves, the whistle of a train, a long and lonesome train whistling down, a truck horn blowing at a street corner speaker - kids squawling along the streets - the silent wail of wind and sky caressing the breasts of the desert.

‘Life is this sound, and since creation has been a song. And there is no real trick of creating words to set to music, once you realize that the word is the music and the people are the song.’

Long may his influence remain with us all. 

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